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About linen in Krosno
The final of 'Z krosna do Krosna' 2008 biennial

The fifth edition of 'Z krosna do Krosna' International Artistic Linen Cloth Biennial has become an inherent part of the artistic cityscape of summertime Krosno. Every two years the town hosts not only the unique artistic works made on the basis of linen, but also the authors of these remarkable works. During the opening ceremonies of the exhibition in Krosno we had the honour to play host not only to Polish authors, but also to artists from Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Israel, Denmark, Austria, and above all, from the Ukraine. The last weekend of August - Friday - makes a celebration of Krosno linen traditions. This year's edition, already the fifth one, gives us the opportunity for some résumé, reflection, making plans for the future.





The event was held for the first time in 2000, when the closing down of 'KROSNOLEN', so-called Lnianka, one of the Polish biggest linen factories was still fresh in people's minds. The organization of the 'artistic linen cloth' exhibition, for some, seemed to be a risky venture,... it would remind of having made 1500 workers redundant. Fortunately, the argument for the necessity of preserving and recording weaving traditions of the town by the Craft Museum in Krosno prevailed.

The 16th - century town of Krosno was famous for its production of fustian, which was known not only within Poland but also in the neighbouring countries of Europe. Linen cultivation was the most popular activity of people of that time, and its processing had made one of the topmost branches of the economy for centuries. The imperial Viennese court was provided with 'Krosno linen', the same linen was also ordered for aristocratic brides trousseaus - as we can read in Anna of Działyńscy Potocka's diaries. In the 80s of the 19th century, thanks to the support of Krajowa Komisja Przemysłowa /National Industrial Committee/ and Galicyjski Wydział Państwowy /Galician State Department/ there was established Krajowy Naukowy Warsztat Tkacki /National Scientific Weaving Workshop/ in nearby Korczyna and Krajowa Szkoła Tkacka /National Weaving School/ in Krosno. Among the lecturers of the latter were: Henryk Gruszecki - the author of Technologia tkactwa ręcznego textbook, Franciszek Daniszewski - a professor of drawing and painting, an expert on patterned weaving, Bernard Jaroszewicz - a painter and textile designer. We must not forget about Jan Szczepanik, connected with Krosno and Korczyna - an inventor, designer and author working in photography, weaving and even involved in transmitting pictures over a distance. Ages-old craft traditions found their continuation in the activity of 'KROSNOLEN' - a company operating until recently, whose highest quality products dominated on the world's markets for years. Unfortunately, so popular Krosno 'Lnianka' did not manage to survive the times of political and economic changes which happened towards the end of the 20th century.

The glorious weaving tradition of Krosno was long gone; what was left was only memories, publications, archive records, some devices, which until then had become museum exhibits, and a beautiful legend of the spinners - manor house maids which were turned into stones as a punishment for weaving during a church holiday. A geological reserve in a nearby village of Czarnorzeki called 'Prządki' takes its name from this legend. International Artistic Linen Cloth Biennial makes an attempt to preserve cultural heritage of the region.

Originally, as a brainchild of Anna and Jerzy Pisowaccy, the event was meant as a one - time exhibition of linen cloth. However, after disputes, conversations and above all thanks to Prof. Irena Huml and Prof. Ewa Poradowska Werszler's expertise, we embarked on organizing a cyclical event – at two years' interval. The key principles were formulated on the basis of the Mini Textile Art Biennial experience. It was assumed that the works entering the competition must consist of at least 75 per cent of linen fibre, and their size must be between 25 and 60 cm. The function of an artistic consultant was given to Ewa Maria Poradowska Werszler from Wrocław - the founder and leader of many organizations promoting artistic weaving, the initiator of numerous artistic undertakings, such as the Mini Art Textile Biennial or 'Art Workshop - Kowary' International Symposium on Artistic Textile, and above all an outstanding individual in the milieu of artistic linen cloth artists.

The very idea of relying on linen fibre was original enough to present a challenge for artists, even though the contest was held outside the major art centres. There were 54 entries from 8 countries for the first edition of 'Z krosna do Krosna' International Artistic Linen Cloth Biennial, from: the Czech Republic, Denmark, Sweden, Ukraine, Slovakia, Finland, Russia and Poland. Every next edition was enriched by several new artists. Among over a hundred artists as many as 14 participated in all of Krosno events: Aleksandra Bibrowicz-Sikorska, Anna Borsovska-Nemcova, Maria Chojnacka, Ewa Damborska, Kazimiera Frymark-Błaszczyk, Aleksandra Herisz, Tetiana Jadczuk-Bogomazowa, Halyna Kusko, Leszek Kwaśny, Tetiana Lukaszewicz, Olga Łukowska, Iwanna Tokar, Marta Tokar, Aleksandra Zuba-Benn.

Since the very beginning we have assumed that Krosno biennial would be a 'travelling' textile presentation. Through a year after the premiere exhibition the museum tries to exhibit artistic linen in galleries in Poland and abroad. It has become a tradition that the works of Krosno biennial are presented in the Museum of Ukrainian Culture in Svidnik as well as in Saris Gallery in Presov, both in Slovakia, and the finnisage of the whole series of exhibitions takes place at Gocsej Museum in Zalaegerszeg, Hungary. Four editions
of 'Z krosna do Krosna' International Artistic Linen Cloth Biennial were presented in Polish galleries and museums in: the Bureau of Artistic Exhibitions /BWA/ in Rzeszów, Zakopane and Gorlice, the Orzeł Gallery in Mysłakowice, as part of the International 'Art Workshop - Kowary', in the Museum in Przeworsk, in the Institute of Industrial Design in Warsaw, and as an exhibition accompanying the 9 and 10th International Triennial of Tapestry in Lodz.

Undertaking the organisation of such an event we took into consideration the necessity to expand forms of museum activities as well as the opportunity for building up a new collection. The Craft Museum owns over a hundred textiles handed down as a gift by the artists participating in the biennial, as well as several artistic works which did not take part in the contest. Thanks to a biennial promotion the museum has acquired several dozen of exhibits and archive records containing details of Krajowa Szkola Tkacka /National Weaving School/, weaving workshops from the vicinity of Krosno, designs and textiles made in the weaving cooperatives of Krosno and Korczyna, lace made by artists from Rymanów, Brzozów and Zręcin.

The power of artistic message of Krosno biennial lies in the works which touch upon the issue of a relation between craft and art. For we know that craft and art made unity in the times when a craftsman was also an artist - as Ewa Poradowska - Werszler wrote in the introduction to the 4th Biennial catalogue. That seems to apply to this year's edition too. Most of the works are made using classical techniques, which makes a clear response to the motto of 'Z krosna do Krosna' biennial. It may be that linen and the competition rules, which require it to be the prevailing material, make us associate it with simplicity, calmness, patience, lasting, balance, and cheerfulness, which is reflected not only in the techniques of works but also in author's verbal descriptions. At the same time there are art works which make use of various artists' unique techniques: painting, trimming, crochet, gluing. Classical two-dimensionality of textile changes its form by capturing the distance and using materials juxtaposed with natural softness of fibre - stone, wood, metal, only glass - so characteristic of Krosno - is missing.

When comparing successive editions of Krosno biennial it does not escape our notice that there is a tendency for searching motives not only in nature, legends, symbols, ethnology or memories; it becomes more common that the works interpret, in a contemplative, humorous or even philosophical manner, the world... as it really is? Whatever response to this question may be - as the authors say - each of the works encourages reflection, dispute or even an artistic riposte in the Internet.

This year's edition marks the beginning of a new enterprise. We have enabled the students of the last two years and graduates (up to 1 year after they have got their degree) of Polish artistic universities to make their debut in artistic textile with the top prize in form of individual exhibition - not restricted to textile works. Unfortunately, there were only 5 entries to this year's competition. Perhaps next time we will invite students from all over Europe.

The presentation of artistic linen became, in a sense, a 'tourist product' which promotes Krosno using all the possible chief assets of the region which are associated with weaving traditions of the town. The very title: 'Z krosna do Krosna' shows direct associations between the event and the town. Linen cultivated by the artists also became - I do hope - the pride of our city. Drawing on this uniqueness of the combination of both krosnos, we would like to invite you to take part in the next editions of 'Z krosna do Krosna' International Artistic Linen Cloth Biennial.

1 krosno - a loom in Polish and Krosno - the name of the town

Ewa Mańkowska
Director of the Craft Museum in Krosno

The event is held under the honorary patronage of
Minister of Culture and National Heritage Bogdan Zdrojewski
and President of the Town of Krosno Piotr Przytocki.

Media patronage: Polski Portal Menedżerów Kultury and Portal Kulturaonline.pl
The project supported by the Podkarpacie Voievodship and the Krosno District.